“Family Reunion” by Jill Scott (2004)

Despite only knowing my mother’s side, I come from a pretty big family. I’m one of four, my mother’s one of six, and I have more cousins than I can shake a stick at. Not only that, but my parents are immigrants. My mom came to this country with her parents in the early ’70s, and as newcomers to the U.S., my grandma and grandpa kept close ties with all of their relatives and associates who preceded or followed them into the states. So, what I’m saying is that our family reunions were usually jam-packed with people; loud and raucous.

I guess that’s why Jill Scott’s “Family Reunion” feels so…well, familiar to me. The music isn’t slow, but it’s laconic. It feels like a hot summer day. Even before Jill starts singing, you can smell the hot dogs and hamburgers being grilled. Jill nails the lyrics, capturing the intricacies of interacting with people you’re bound to by blood perfectly-there are new babies and cousins you love but hardly ever see.  There are fights, and make-ups, and there’s definitely Frankie Beverly & Maze, although at my family reunions it was just as likely that the music that got everyone’s spirits up was salsa, merengue, calypso or soca (and these days, is usually hip-hop or reggaeton until the older family members start complaining.)

When I was a kid, family reunions were a great time to eat a ton of food and run around with all the other kids. Now, I’m middle-aged, with a full-time job and my own network of friends and chosen family. A lot of my relatives are spread out around the country and the world, many of the elders who organized these events have left us, and those kids are now adults with their own jobs and networks and families. Time, age and circumstance makes these family reunions significantly less frequent (and honestly, I don’t show up to all of them anymore), but Jill’s song makes me nostalgic for a time when things were simpler and also reminds me of a certain warmth that only being around people who’ve known you all your life can provide.

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